Redefining Business as Usual

From by Kathlee Freeman
Redefining Business as Usual

Pavan Sukhdev, the founder of Corp 2020, believes that business can be transformed into a proponent for a “green economy” to benefit the environment, people, and the economy.  Corp 2020, an international campaign centered on positive social and environmental interactions between corporations and their employees, customers, the general public, and the natural world.

The crisis of biodiversity loss can only begin to be addressed in earnest if the values of biodiversity and ecosystem services are fully recognized and represented in decision-making,” explains Sukhdev.

In other words, goods provided by nature, including fresh air, clean water, fertile soils, and a healthy ecosystem, need to be assigned a value. For example, a 2010 report, led by Sukhdev and produced for the United Nations, found that the world’s 3,000 largest companies would lose one-third of their profits if they were required to pay for the damage caused to the environment as a result of their business.  

Sukhdev advocates for true cost accounting by including the costs of using or damaging natural resources. Corp 2020 also calls for companies to measure and disclose their environmental impact, incur resource taxes, limit financial leverage, and promote their products through ethical advertising.    

These changes would allow consumers to compare products in terms of their environmental impact, meaning a reduction in environmental degradation would actually impact a company’s bottom line. Placing a tax on “brown economy” resources, such as fossil fuels, creates incentives for businesses to embrace technologies and resources that are better for the environment.

At the same time, capital requirements for corporations would prevent the “too big to fail” predicament that accompanied the recent global financial crisis. And, ethical advertising calls for a critical view of consumerism and the tendency for companies to turn “wants into needs” to sell more products. 

Jochen Zeitz, Executive Chairman of Puma, one of the company’s supporting Corp 2020’s model, reiterated the need for corporations to be responsible for the impact of doing business on the natural world, saying, “All of our products today are subsidized by nature, that’s the reality. Nature has not asked us to pay, and has never sent us a bill. That needs to change.”

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